Several Chase Bank Branches Close Amid Protests Over Unequal Lending

Chase Bank Protest
Protesters on Tuesday shut down the Chase Bank branch in Bronzeville, demanding reparations from the bank. From 2012-2018, Chase made $7.5 billion in home purchase loans in Chicago; just 1.9% went to black neighborhoods. Linda Lutton / WBEZ
Chase Bank Protest
Protesters on Tuesday shut down the Chase Bank branch in Bronzeville, demanding reparations from the bank. From 2012-2018, Chase made $7.5 billion in home purchase loans in Chicago; just 1.9% went to black neighborhoods. Linda Lutton / WBEZ

Several Chase Bank Branches Close Amid Protests Over Unequal Lending

Updated 6:20 p.m.

Several Chase Bank branches have temporarily closed this week amid protests demanding the nation’s largest bank increase lending in Chicago’s black neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, about 20 protesters shut down the bank’s Bronzeville branch — and threatened further “pop-up protests” at Chase branches across Chicago.

Wednesday, the activists made good on their promise, and two other Chase branches saw temporary closures due to protest activity, 1934 S. State St. and 1130 W. Taylor St., Chase confirmed.

The protesters are calling for reparations from Chase to make up for wildly unequal mortgage lending patterns exposed by WBEZ and City Bureau. They want $1 billion in grants and $10 billion in loans made to Chicago’s black communities.

The WBEZ/City Bureau analysis showed lenders as a whole in the city invested 68% of their home purchase dollars in majority-white neighborhoods, and just 8% in black neighborhoods. Chase had the most disparate lending of any major lender, investing less than 2% in Chicago’s black communities. The analysis examined every home purchase loan made in Chicago from 2012 to 2018.

“If you don’t want to lend on the South and West sides of Chicago, no Chase Bank will be able to be open,” vowed Ja’Mal Green, the 24-year-old activist and former mayoral candidate who has been spearheading the protests.

Tuesday afternoon, Green entered the Chase branch at 35th and King Drive and, with a thousand people watching along on Facebook Live, politely told customers and bank employees that protesters were going to “shut down this Chase for the next few hours.”

Chase had given out $7.5 billion in home purchase loans in Chicago since 2012, but just a fraction of that money — 1.9% — was loaned in majority-black neighborhoods, Green told customers, citing WBEZ/City Bureau reporting.

“Finish up your transactions. … We appreciate everybody here,” he said. “Thank you.”

As Green left the bank to join protesters arriving outside, Chase employees quickly locked the doors behind him. Soon, a Chase employee hung up a sign on the door, saying the branch was temporarily closed “due to an emergency.”

“This is an emergency,” insisted LaDonna Miller, one of the protesters. “Only 1.9% is an emergency!”

Chase Bank Protest
Activist Ja’Mal Green talks with protesters outside the Chase Bank branch in Bronzeville on Tuesday after the bank shut down for the day. Green is vowing pop-up protests at Chase branches around the city. Linda Lutton / WBEZ

Miller said she’d been denied a loan on four occasions from Chase. She found out about the protest because she follows Green on social media.

“I came out today as a businesswoman being denied loans from Chase Bank … with a credit score of over 800,” Miller said. She said she had approached the bank to purchase a commercial space with housing above.

“I thought it was something [about me] personally, that maybe the business wasn’t established for long enough. … But now I see that this is something that’s happening to many people throughout the city,” Miller said. She rearranged her work schedule to be able to join the protest and “support this movement so that we can finally get an answer to what’s happening.”

WBEZ’s analysis would not have captured Miller’s experience, because it only considered loans that were actually originated. There is an additional universe of people, like Miller, who never made it that far.

Miller said the numbers help “to understand what’s happening in our communities.” She lost out on the property she was trying to buy. She said she eventually got a loan on a different property at a different bank.

She said she’s pulling money out of Chase savings accounts, something Green has been urging African-Americans to do.

“If your dollar goes into [Chase] Bank … you are funding your oppression. This banking institution — who won’t lend to you — is a co-conspirator in all the stuff we’re fighting about,” Green told protesters yesterday.

“Imagine if we were able to get loans. Imagine if we were able to build up these communities,” Green told protesters. “Then these kids would have jobs. … The police won’t be messing with them, because we got an economy of our own, and we got money circulating in our community.”

WBEZ/City Bureau report also found:

  • Chase’s weak lending record extended to even middle-class neighborhoods. Chase made an average of just three home loans per year from 2012-2018 in historically middle-class Chatham

  • Chase loaned nearly nine times more to a single majority-white community, Lake View, than to all black neighborhoods combined.

  • In the period WBEZ examined, Chase loaned $980 million to Lincoln Park, but only $1.7 million to Englewood and West Englewood, a six-square mile area in the heart of Chicago’s South Side.

Home purchase lending is one of the most important ways money flows into communities. A lack of lending locks residents out of home ownership and an opportunity to build wealth — fewer than 40% of black households own their home in Chicago — and threatens to exacerbate racial inequities between neighborhoods.

“It is time we get our billion dollars in reparations,” Green told fellow protesters at the branch shut-down.

Chase did not have any immediate comment on protesters shutting down the Bronzeville branch, or on the call for reparations.

The bank gave NBC 5 the same response it provided WBEZ two weeks ago, before the report published: “Every Chicagoan should have equal access to the opportunity of homeownership, and we all have work to do for this to happen. That is why we’ve been working with community partners and local government leaders to create and promote sustainable homeownership opportunities by doubling our homebuyer grant, specifically in the South and West sides of the city, expanding access to our low down payment mortgage product … and investing in affordable housing in Chicago.”

Protesters said Bronzeville was just the first Chase branch to be shut down. They’re planning pop-up protests at branches around the city.

Linda Lutton covers Chicago neighborhoods for WBEZ. Follow her @lindalutton.